Sunday, November 21st, 2010
Three books I read this summer that I wanted to write about but didn't much of substance. Either of the first two would be great by itself, it was a real treat to read them both in succession.
- Stranger Here Below by Joyce Hinnefeld. This is Hinnefeld's second novel and seems like a real breakthrough. I liked In Hovering Flight a lot but it did not seem like a "masterpiece" the way I can picture talking about this book (once I get around to/figure out what to post about it).
- Out of the Mountains by Meredith Sue Willis.
I talk to Vashie on the phone and visit occasionally, but I never run her errands. I don't drive her to the doctor, and I don't pick up her groceries.
Such a clear, genuine voice.
Her daughter Ruth doesn't either, but Ruth is a classic agoraphobic, a direct result of having Vashie as a mother, in my opinion. Vashie was even worse as a mother than as a third grade teacher. We're all widows now, Vashie, Ruth, me, and my friend Ursula Rose, who was having the tag sale in front of her late husband's mansion the day Vashie came lurching toward us on her walker, pausing to rest when she thought we were watching.
-- "The Scandalous Roy Critchfield"
- The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago. This book seems almost the equal of Balthazar and Blimunda to me but I'm not sure how to back this up -- my plan was to write a review of it to submit to Quarterly Conversation or similar, but I got stuck on recommending it rather then writing about it. Really a sheer pleasure to read.
Sunday, November second, 2008
In Hovering Flight, Chapters 15 and 16 -- as Addie struggles with cancer and with chemotherapy I feel like she is finally starting to come through as a character -- still very much an odd bird, but I'm starting to understand her well enough to identify with her, and with Tom. And in parallel I'm thinking that Scarlet (who is now grown up) is beginning to understand her parents as people rather than just as cryptic "parents".
By that token the writing in these chapters strikes me as more mature, more fully developed than the writing in Chapters 7 and 8 -- Scarlet is again (mostly) absent from the story, but there is no drought of character. I wonder if it would be possible (and if it would be worthwhile) to argue that the narrator "grows up" in parallel with Scarlet -- that Scarlet getting to know her parents enables the reader to know them with a fulness of human character. Would it be appropriate to call this a Bildungsroman?
(And a nice bit of continuity at the end of Chapter 16: at the party celebrating Addie's newfound artistic success, "And there was Scarlet, watching them all and smiling...")
Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Joyce Hinnefeld is conducting an author chat over at LibraryThing, from today through November 12th. ("Chat" is kind of a strange name for a two-week exchange of messages...) You will need to be logged in to view it. (Link via She Is Too Fond Of Books....)
In the chat, Joyce links to a playlist she created to go along with In Hovering Flight.
Sunday, October 26th, 2008
I was thinking more today about why I am identifying Scarlet as the main character of In Hovering Flight, and what it means: the plot* is events that happen in the lives of Scarlet's parents and their friends, she is involved mainly as a spectator.
Scarlet is about my age (2 years older), and I can roughly identify all the people in her parents' crowd as people I knew growing up. I am finding it easy to identify with Scarlet's role watching her parents and their friends, forming attachments for some and failing to attach with others, but never really being able to understand them as people rather than as "characters" -- She is experiencing her life as a story told to her.
Something that is really puzzling me: The excerpts from Addie's field journal that are part of this book, are from the first field journal, the one she kept in Tom's class. But it was explicitly pointed out in the first chapter, that this was the journal which Tom would not show to Scarlet, presumably because of its role in the beginning of his and Addie's relationship. So it doesn't fit in with the rest of the book being Scarlet's pov. I'm hoping to get some kind of explanation for this before too long.
Note: Chapters Nine and Ten are some of the best writing so far. I'm hoping for more of this, it's really comfortable to read.
* Understood to mean "the plot thus far" -- I've only read half the book so far. These ideas are developing as I progress through it.
Saturday, October 25th, 2008
I am finding In Hovering Flight to be very strongly a book about one single character, Scarlet; all the other figures seem to be present in service of her story. This is a pretty common state of affairs with novels, and not something I hold against the book; but it's striking me as odd that so much of the book is devoted to people who are not the primary character -- when I started Chapter Nine this evening I had an immediate reaction of "Oh yeah, now this feels like a novel again!" as Scarlet re-entered the picture, after a long expository section about Tom and Addie's history.
Also in Chapter Nine, beautiful timing:
The oriole's nest, that delicate, swinging pendulum woven from plant fiber and hair, made Scarlet cry every time she saw it. She could still see Richard's face as he held it up for everyone to view one evening at dinner, swinging it slowly back and forth and following it with his eyes, a look of rapture on his face.
"They must build it this way so the wind can rock it back and forth like this, to soothe the babies," he said as he watched the nest. "Like the cradle in the treetop."
Everyone smiled, enjoying the thought, and also Richard's obvious pleasure. No one said anything about how "Rock-a-Bye Baby" ends.
Tuesday, October 14th, 2008
Here are three ways a novel can be good: It can appeal to the ear, with fluency of prose and well-chosen words; it can appeal to the mind, with elegant structure and finely crafted plot; and it can appeal to the heart, pulling the reader away from himself and into the personalities of its characters. The first part of In Hovering Flight was appealing mostly to my ear and my mind; but with the return to the present moment in part II and the focus on Scarlet's thoughts, it is starting to get to my heart as well.
Monday, October 13th, 2008
In Hovering Flight is making me dream of drawing birds and owls. The best-realized descriptions so far are of Addie sketching -- when she was in the first session of class, drawing the stuffed owl, was the first time I could begin to get a clear picture of her.
Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
Joyce's debut novel is now on the racks! Library Journal says she has written "a rich first novel about love, loss, and the fragile beauty of nature." A schedule of her appearances, plus links to reviews, plus her blog, are all at the novel's website.
In Hovering Flight, by Joyce Hinnefeld, is the top entry on the American Booksellers Association's September list of Indies Picks.
Drop me a line! or, sign my Guestbook.
Check out Ellen's writing at Patch.com.